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A Star Wars Backstory:
Bear with me, this backstory is a little long. But it’s worth it. I think. In early 1997, George Lucas and friends released the Special Edition of the Star Wars (original) Trilogy. My friends and I geeked out. Many of us were too young to really remember watching A New Hope (still my favorite Star Wars movie) . We heard stories of people camping out in front of movie theaters to see Star Wars. Growing up, I thought that was pretty cool. As a child, I resolved to camp outside a movie theater in order to be one of the first to watch a Star Wars sequel.
For a moment, I considered camping out for the opening of the Special Edition. But I couldn’t. I had classes to attend and I couldn’t justify skipping class so early in the semester. So I did the next best thing. I served as a go-between for an underclassmen who did camp out the night before and a group of a dozen or so friends, including a professor (or two – I think). I placed the ticket orders and collected the money. He stayed out all night, got a special first-screening with employees, and was first in line to buy all of our tickets. Remember, this was long before the days of buying your tickets online.
To reward myself for coordinating such a logistical feat, I bought myself two tickets. One for the matinee showing of A New Hope with my buddy, Scott. The second one was for the showing immediately after the matinee. That one was with my good friend, Mike, and my roommate, Matt. I knew this would be a day long-remembered. So I wanted to do something extra-special and watch A New Hope twice in one night. It was my destiny.
Matt, Mike, Scott, and I were pretty good friends. They were even in our wedding.
It was only fitting that I celebrate this great night with all of them. Right?
Scott and I arrived early and grabbed the best seats in the house before everyone else showed up. The next thing I knew, our theater was packed and abuzz with excitement in anticipation of watching the film that defined an entire generation (or two) on the big screen. We even invited everyone to join us in singing happy birthday to our professor. It was the same professor who participated in my mass ticket buying extravaganza. Thinking back nearly twenty years later, I probably should’ve given him his ticket for free, since it was his birthday and all. Unfortunately, I don’t think I was very clear-headed at the moment. I mean, I was about to see STAR WARS ON THE BIG SCREEN!
So we sang, we laughed, and we waited. When the 20th Century Fox fanfare announced the film’s beginning, I’m pretty sure we clapped. And I was bouncing on my seat like a giddy schoolboy as the introductory paragraphs crawled across the starlit screen. I was in heaven. There were a few additions that bothered me (don’t get me started on the re-inserted Jabba scene or the Ronto, and can we please go back to Han shooting first? He was a scoundrel, after all), but I still loved watching the movie again. For the first time. Or something like that. It really was everything I had hoped it would be. And more.
As Scott and I left the movie theater, we were greeted with cheers and thunderous applause from a line of people. OK, thunderous might be a bit excessive. Work with me here. They were next in line to watch the movie. And they were just as excited as we were. There were high fives and claps of joy and still more cheering. It was quite a communal experience. I saw Matt and Mike in line so I scurried out the theater so I could re-enter the theater and take my rightful place by their side.
As I leaf the building, I stopped to talk to Christy and our friend Angie. They he’d just finished watching a non-Star Wars related movie. I don’t remember which one. I bet they don’t, either. Because this was Star Wars night. That was all that mattered.
So I was talking to Christy and Angie for a moment when I overheard another Milligan student say that Star Wars was sold out for the night and he couldn’t get a ticket. He was walking toward the parking lot and was obviously pretty bummed.
So I stopped talking to Christy. “I’ll be right back,” I said.
“What are you doing?” Angie asked. “Are you giving him your ticket?”
“It’s what Jesus would do,” I said as I walked toward him.
I have no idea if that’s what Jesus would do or not, if I’m going to be honest. I’m not sure if Jesus really cared that I sold the guy my ticket at face-value. But I did it. And I wound up standing up two of my good friends on an important night. After giving him the ticket, I went back in and broke the news to Matt and Mike.
They were bummed. I was bummed. I had been looking forward to watching it with them. Since we’re being honest, I found myself questioning this decision all night long.
Renewed buzz. And hope.
Almost twenty years later, Star Wars fandom was abuzz once again. This time, it wasn’t a re-release. It wasn’t even a new episode in the Star Wars saga. Rogue One: A Star Wars Story promised to be different. It centered on an entirely new set of characters. As a stand-alone film, it also promised a grittier feel than the Star Wars saga. With fresh blood in the creative team, it had the potential of infusing some new, energetic, and creative juice into the Star Wars film franchise. It also promised a hearty amount of nostalgia.
The nostalgia was there. In droves. The ships, weapons, sets, costumes, overall design, and, of course, the storyline all tied directly into A New Hope. There were a lot Easter eggs and cameos that tie this film directly into the Original Trilogy. But I stopped counting them because I lost track.
I have a few problems with some of the special effects efforts. But since I want this to be spoiler-free, I’m not going to go into any more detail than that. These concerns, however, are minor in the grand scheme of the film. It’s nothing atrocious like Jar Jar Binks or Greedo shooting first or the introduction of midichlorians. So we’re good.
A reunion at Rogue One
Through a series of events beyond my control, I wound up with a group of people at the opening of Rogue One, sitting right beside my old college roommate. We entered a new age of Star Wars films with the arrival of stand-alone “Star Wars stories” together. So while I might not have shared in the revival of Star Wars on the big screen almost twenty years ago, I did get to usher in this new era. It will be a day long remembered, for sure.
With my reputation of taking selfies before people knew what selfies were, you’d think I would have thought to take a selfie with Matt while we were together. Unfortunately, I didn’t. So you’re going to have to settle for this one:
As we sat through the closing credits, I turned to Matt and said, “That was amazing. In fact, t was so amazing that I don’t think I want to watch it again.” This puts the film in some pretty rare air. I think only Saving Private Ryan and Schindler’s List fall into that category. Now that the dust has settled, I don’t think it’s quite on that level of film, but it’s still pretty great. And I’m ready to see it again.
Does this make me excited for the upcoming stand-alone movies? I’m not sure. I think the thing that made this film so special is that it didn’t include any of the regular characters from the saga as the main characters in Rogue One. A Han Solo film might not be as magical. I hope I’m wrong.
Because Rogue One was pretty special. I’d love to see that magic happen again.
Have you seen Rogue One yet? What did you think? If you haven’t, what are you waiting for? Get your tickets today.